Back in October of last year, I covered a story about Donald Eugene Miller, age 61, being “legally dead”, but “officially alive” in eyes of mankind. It was a strange, but great story to cover at the time, because Halloween was right around the corner and I got to use some vampire and zombie references, respectively. Well, you’d think that after this whole situation has passed, Miller and his relatives could rest in peace, right? Wrong. It turns out the Social Security Administration wants all of its death benefits back, which were paid unto his two daughters accordingly, tallying more than $47,000.
Is Being Legally Dead is the New Alive?
To be fair, let’s recap what happened to Miller. Back in 1986 when Miller lost his job and had hefty child support payments exceeding over $26,000, he vanished from society; probably not knowing what to do with his life. So naturally, the authorities tried to track him down. As it turns out, there wasn’t a clue to be found and no one knew where he was. The information that they were able to acquire is that he was a heavy drinker and when he ran off, he probably died somewhere, which must have been heart-wrenching to his family. In 1994, Donald Eugene Miller was pronounced officially dead in the eyes of the Hancock County Probate Court of Ohio. But in 2005, Miller was found alive in the town of Fostoria, Ohio. His parents awkwardly had to break the bad news to him about being dead. I can only imagine the conversation that took place between them.
“Hey son, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re dead; we still love you very much though.”
As it seems, Miller was okay with this for a while – that is, until 2013 when he decided to see if he could get his death ruling overturned, so he could reinstate his driver’s license and Social Security card.
But as this sad story continues, Judge Allan Davis couldn’t legally do that for him according to the Statue of Limitations. Miller had three years to prove he wasn’t dead, and in 1997, his time was officially up. Miller was 16 years late. It was truly (and I emphasize truly) an awkward situation for Judge Davis.
Now, 10 months later, the United States Government is ignoring the Davis’ ruling against Miller and demands for all their money back, which was paid onto his two daughters, respectively. You’d think this story could get even stranger? I mean what’s going to happen if Miller commits a crime, is he going to be punished in the eyes of the law, will he go to jail?
Personally, I feel bad for Miller in some respects, but seriously how is this scenario not put to rest? I can only imagine the conversations that Miller has, “Hi, my name is Donald Miller, I’m age 61 and the law doesn’t know whether I’m dead or alive.” That’s an icebreaker if I’ve ever saw one.
The real icing on the cake is that the Social Security Administration isn’t even going after Miller right away; they’re going after his two children first.
A Rare and Unusual Occurrence
Initially in 1994, when his ex-wife, Robin Miller asked the probate court to declare her ex-husband dead, they agreed accordingly, so her two daughters could collect the benefits from Social Security. They each received about $100 a week until they turned 18. The federal benefits were paid, which accumulated under $30,000. So, if you include the fees and interest calculated by the SSA, the two daughters owe $47,256; $28,711 to one and $18,545 to the other.
Does the SSA seriously think it’s going to extract this money that was distributed 20 years ago? Even Robin claims that she wasn’t sure what the money was spent on; she had a hard enough time trying to support her two kids. Well, according to the Courier, the SSA will first go after the two daughters for the money, then his ex-wife Robin and then finally Miller himself. Robin Miller (who’s new last name happens to be Miller when she remarried), doesn’t believe her or her daughters owe any money to the federal government – and she makes a valid point. In the eyes of the law, Miller was legally declared dead by the probate courts, which would permit the two siblings to acquire the funds.
In the lieu of these bizarre and rare demands, Robin has requested a waiver to the SSA, which they are currently considering. Alas, this brings up a brand new point; even if the SSA goes after the real culprit, Donald Miller, that won’t matter much either. Kevin Underhill from Lowering the Bar states that Miller won’t be able to get a job, yet alone a loan that will allow him to pay this monetary figure back, because he’s legally dead in the eyes of the law. So the SSA may just be chasing its own tail or perhaps they’ll say: “it’s best to swallow this situation and move on.”
Stay tuned for the next edition of Legally Strange!